It was all worth the wait.
No. 1 Virginia defeated No. 3 Georgetown, 68-63, last night before a sellout of 19,035 at Capital Centre.
History will note that this was the night Virginia's 7-foot-4 senior, Ralph Sampson, and Georgetown's 7-foot sophomore, Patrick Ewing, put forth a battle for the ages and for the memories.
Sampson was simply Sampson-like: he had 23 points (14 in the second half), 16 rebounds, seven blocks and one fatiguing flu. "I came down with something before the game," Sampson said. He added, "There aren't words that really can describe (Ewing). He's a great player."
Last night, Ewing was a little bit Russell, a little bit Chamberlain and a little bit ornery. He scored 16 points, got eight rebounds, blocked five shots. "I feel I played the best I could," Ewing said.
Sometimes, though, history misses the most pertinent point for contemporaries. The fact is, last night they played a game that, if it wasn't really the Game of the Decade, then at least it proved that hype is not always just a four-letter word.
It happened this way:
Virginia (6-0) led, 41-27, early in the second half, but didn't score a field goal over the final 5:50. Consequently, Georgetown came back to tie the score at 59 on freshman David Wingate's 20-footer with 3:47 left.
Now, try to follow the fury of those final minutes, minutes that left Virginia Coach Terry Holland saying, "This game, as much as it could, lived up to its advanced billing."
And which left Georgetown Coach John Thompson, his team now 6-1, his Capital Centre winning streak ended at 16, saying, "I wanted excitement like this in December so we'll be used to it in March."
Four seconds after Wingate's basket, Craig Robinson made two free throws, giving Virginia a 61-59 lead. Then, with 3:15 to play, Georgetown forward Anthony Jones tied the score at 61 with an 18-footer from the right base line.
With 3:04 left, Othell Wilson's two free throws gave Virginia a 63-61 lead. After some further fury inside between Sampson and Ewing, Jones, shooting one for 13 from the line entering the game, was fouled with 1:39 left.
He missed the first free throw of a one-and-one situation. Jones seemingly made amends when he stole a pass, but then traveled with 1:35 left.
Further fury: Virginia forward Jim Miller missed a jumper. Georgetown rebounded with nearly a minute to play, but freshman guard Horace Broadnax was called for charging with 42 seconds left.
Miller made two free throws, boosting Virginia's lead to 65-61. Then Georgetown guard Michael Jackson made a 12-footer to close the score to 65-63. Only 16 seconds remained.
Virginia did not have the victory guaranteed until Wilson was fouled, then made two free throws with 12 seconds to play. Thusly done, Wilson gave Virginia a 67-63 lead, then gave Sampson a high-five.
Rick Carlisle's free throw with one second left in the game added up to Virginia 68, Georgetown 63; it further added up to Virginia's shooting 42 percent from the field, Georgetown just 38 percent; it added up to 16 turnovers for Virginia, 10 for Georgetown.
In a word, it ended up "Ralph."
"I don't think I played well," said Sampson, whose standards must be as high as 7-foot-4.
"It was just another game going in," added Sampson, who made 10 of 17 shots from the field. "But when we had it won, all of the emotion came out."
Virginia led, 33-23, at the half. For much of the first half, Thompson had forward Bill Martin covering Sampson. "I didn't want to have Patrick and Sampson head-to-head because I didn't want to see foul trouble," Thompson said.
Of course, there were times -- many times -- when Ewing and Sampson were head-to-head, block-to-block, slam-to-slam. For much of the game, though, Georgetown could not get the ball in to Ewing, so tough was Sampson's defense.
"I thought my teammates did the best they could do about getting the ball to me," said Ewing, who made six of 14 shots from the field.
Sampson's support came from Wilson, who scored 10 points and Robinson, who had eight rebounds, helping the Cavaliers outrebound the Hoyas, 42-38.
The Hoyas had not trailed by more than four points in any of their six victories. Of course, the Hoyas had never played a team like Virginia before, either.
But when Virginia went on a 10-2 streak, ending with two free throws by Robinson with 6:07 left in the first half, the Cavaliers led, 20-11.
The Hoyas made their comeback midway through the second half with a 10-2 streak of their own. It closed the score from 41-27 to 43-37 with 13:41 left.
The key to the streak was Georgetown junior guard Gene Smith. Smith led the charge by taking the charge: twice during the streak, Smith caused charging fouls on guards Wilson and Stokes. Smith also made a steal that led to Martin's three-point play, which closed the score to 43-34.
Smith, the team captain, captained this comeback, which was generated by a full-court press. "I can't imagine anybody's press being better than theirs," Holland said.
In the end, though, it was Ralph. He had several blocks of sheer magnificence, one on a drive by Martin in the first half, when he pinned the ball against the backboard.
This may not be remembered as Sampson's greatest performance. But certainly it will be remembered as a performance of greatness.
"I hope we'll play them again in the final four," Sampson said.
Thompson and his Hoyas had other things to ponder. Besides Ewing, Wingate had 12 points, Jones had 10. Thompson typically viewed this game as just another game in his team's march to March.
"We were tentative in the first half," he said, "and I attest that to Virginia. It took us a little longer than we would have liked to get into the flow of the game. I have to be extra proud, if not satisfied with our effort in the second half."
Last night game's was worth the wait.